California, a state that used to actually have some modicum of respect for gun owners (decades ago), has become (no surprise, given its leftward lurch) the land of a steady stream of gun-rights infringements in recent years. A proposal for a tax on the sale of all semi-automatic firearms honors that “tradition,” and also gives us an opportunity to learn about such things from its dissection.

The idea itself is pretty straightforward: impose a $25 tax on every transaction, and purportedly use the revenue for “community violence prevention programs.”

Sounds useful and not particularly onerous, right? After all, shouldn’t gun owners carry some of the weight of bad things done with guns?

Therein we find the first problem. Just as my car contributes absolutely nothing to drunk-driving statistics if I never drive drunk, my gun contributes absolutely nothing to crime if I never use it in a criminal manner. The shared-responsibility angle is a deceit, intended to vilify and marginalize all gun owners by attaching their ownership to criminals’ activities.

Next, big government has a long history of treating the poor as a source of revenue, through nuisance and quality-of-life fines, through civil asset forfeiture, through a seemingly endless list of nickel-and-dime fees and taxes (take a look at your cable and phone bills), and through making things that are deemed “bad for them” more expensive. Decades back, gun-control politicians raged against “saturday night special” hand guns, because they were cheap. We were supposed to accept that inexpensive firearms fed into crime, but a wee bit of critical thinking shows us the real messages: the poor are more likely to be criminals, and therefore all poor should be deterred from trying to protect themselves against crime. This tax, while it may not be that big a bite for some, is nevertheless going to make it a little harder for a person of limited means to buy a gun for self-protection.

Third, a centuries-old aphorism tells us:

The art of taxation is procuring feathers from a goose with the least amount of hissing.

This tax can easily be marketed as socially just, as “doing something” about gun crime, and as a no-brainer. “Hiss” against it and you’re obviously a Bad Person who, at the minimum, doesn’t care about the victims of gun crime. Support it, and you “care,” even though all you’re doing is advocating the forcible taking from others. All this is hooey. It’s just another way to separate people from the fruit of their labor.

The law also puts another tool in the hands of law enforcement and government prosecutors. It puts additional eyes on gun sellers, and, depending on how it’s worded, may even offer DAs another charge to hang on someone who purchased a gun but never used it in any bad way.

As for actual accomplishment? If the “community violence prevention programs” are an effective countermeasure, they should be funded without singling out law-abiding gun owners, who have no part in the gun crimes that are being targeted. It’s not as if California is lacking in tax revenue.

Make no mistake, this idea is nothing more than a backdoor means of punishing gun owners for doing nothing more than exercising their rights. This is the underlying reason behind most of the gun legislation that the restrictionists advocate. Sure, they tell us that no one wants to take your guns away, and that all they want is “sensible” gun regulation, but when was the last time you heard of a restrictionist advocating for legislation to protect law-abiding gun owners and their rights, or for the rescinding of gun restrictions that have proven, in practice, to be useless or counterproductive, whether alone or as a “horse-trade” to get some new laws aimed at real criminals?

Thus, we see the actual purposes behind this and countless other gun-restriction proposals: A virtue-signal to voters of certain classes that “something is being done,” and a nibble at the rights of the law abiding as part of a long-con to completely do away with gun rights and private gun ownership in our society. If the stated purpose, reducing gun crime, were the actual purpose, the proposals would look very different, and at least some of them would benefit the law-abiding gun owners. That they don’t admit to their real aims up-front is itself damning.

Those who lie to achieve their goals, as restrictionists routinely do, are people we should never trust to govern us.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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